Sermon by St. Bernard the Abbot
And he was subject unto them. Who was subject? And to whom? God to man! God, I repeat, to whom the Angels are subject, whom the Principalities and Powers do obey, was subject to Mary; and not only to Mary, but to Joseph also for Mary's sake. Marvel, therefore, both at God and man, and choose that which giveth greater wonder, whether it be the most loving condescension of the Son, or the exceeding great dignity of his Mother. Both amaze us, both are marvellous. That God should obey a woman is lowliness without parallel, that woman should rule over God, an elevation beyond comparison. In praise of virgins it is sung of them alone, that they follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. Of what praise do ye judge that woman to be worthy who is thus placed before the Lamb of God.
Learn, O man, to obey! Learn, O earth, to be subject! Learn, O dust, to submit! The Evangelist speaking of thy Creator saith: And he was subject unto them. And there is no doubt that this sheweth us that God was subject to Mary and Joseph. Shame on you, ye proud entities of dust and ashes! God abaseth himself, and dost thou, O creature sprung from the earth, exalt thyself? God maketh himself subject to man, and dost thou, who art always so eager to lord it over men, set up thyself to lord it over thy Creator? For as often soever as I desire pre-eminency over men, so often do I strive to excel God. For of him it was said: And he was subject unto them. If thou disdainest, O man, to follow the example of man, at least thou canst follow thy Creator without dishonour. If thou canst not, perchance, follow him whithersoever he goeth, deign at least to follow him in this thing wherein he hath emptied himself, and made himself of no reputation, for the sake of such as thou.
If thou canst not enter upon the lofty paths of virginity, at least follow God by the most safe road of humility. If any turn aside from this straight way, though they be virgins, they do not follow the Lamb, if the truth be told, whithersoever he goeth. The humble man, though stained with sin, followeth the Lamb; the virgin, though proud, also followeth; but neither of these twain followeth whithersoever he goeth. The former cannot attain unto the purity of the Lamb, for he is without spot; the latter deigneth not to descend to his meekness, who was dumb, not before the shearer, but before the murderer. Yet the sinner who followeth in humility hath chosen a more saving way than the proud man who followeth in virginity; for the humble one maketh satisfaction, and is cleansed of his impurity, but the proud one's chastity is stained by his pride.